Monday, December 13, 2010

Latkes

A little late, but still relevant... and delicious.

I know I insulted this classic fried food when I posted on the first night of Chanukah; however, I was roused to say more after reading Phyllis/Ima on the Bima's post: Sour Cream vs Applesauce: A Chanukah Debate.  I have trouble keeping my distance from any good debate, especially one including food and religion!

First I'll say, you don't really need a latke recipe, per se.  You can take any starchy vegetable, grate it, season it, mix it with egg, and fry mounds of it in oil.  White potatoes and onion are traditional, and usually the cheapest, but I like sweet potato or zucchini pancakes as well.
Image source: theawl.com 

Latkes are usually eaten with sour cream or apple sauce and the "debate" asks which is the better choice.  I'm not sure my mother ever purchased sour cream.  We did occasionally top baked potatoes with plain low fat yogurt and chives, but no sour cream.  We never even bought apple sauce with sugar added.  I won't deny that sour cream is delicious, but if you can enjoy your fried food without added saturated fat, I would think that's the way to go.  "Ima"s argument about the health benefits of sour cream sounds like a rationalization to me.  There are far better ways to get 2% of your daily value of calcium and a little protein.  How about making latkes with broccoli, sweet potato, and eggs?  (Ok, I admit, that would be delicious with sour cream on top.)

But her point about eating dairy on Chanukah is worth mentioning.  One reason we eat dairy is to remember Judith/Yehudit:
During an Assyrian siege of her village (as part of the war that is remembered through the Chanukah celebration), she charmed her way into the enemy camp with a basket of cheese and wine. The enemy general, Holofernes, ate of the cheese and drank of the wine until he was unable to stay awake. The sweet lass Judith then took his sword and beheaded the muddled man. She brought his head back to her people in a basket and saved her town. (Source: http://imabima.blogspot.com/)

Not only did Yehudit sneak into the general's camp once, but a series of times.  She showed great bravery and strength of character in the face of the enemy as well as her own neighbors.  Can you imagine what they must have been whispering behind her back as she entered the general's tent night after night?  Yet, she set aside her pride to save her city.  When the Assyrians awoke to see their general's head impaled on the city's gate, they retreated.  It is in honor of Yehidit, Chana (who's seven sons were killed before her eyes as she refused to worship idols) and other brave Jewish women of the time, that women get a special privilege on Chanukah.  It is a tradition that for half an hour after lighting Chanukah candles, women do not work.  It is a special little holiday just for Jewish women.

So next year, get all your cooking done early, then spend the half hour after lighting candles simply enjoying the light of the menorah/hanukiah  and your family!


3 comments:

  1. This year, I made latkes with beet, parsnip, and winter squash. I used leeks instead of onion in these. The veggies were from our wonderful CSA. I seasoned with cardamom, cinnamon, and coriander and served them with applesauce and sour cream. They were delicious plain, too.

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  2. I love my latkes with applesauce and a little sour cream. It always bothers me when people eat them with ketchup...then it's a just a glorified french fry, not a latke!

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  3. I'm laughing a little that you called it a "rationalization" - of course it is! ;-) Ya gotta rationalize eating that much fat and unhealthy stuff at least once a year, right!?

    Thanks for connecting with me!

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